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11 Things I Didn’t Understand about Parenting Until I Became a Parent

11 Things I Didn't Understand about Parenting until I became a parent

Before becoming a mom, I was an elementary school teacher. My undergraduate and graduate degrees focused on kids and learning, and my past was saturated with babysitting, tutoring, camp counseling, and caring for kids in all sorts of family dynamics.

I thought I knew a lot about parenting — and then I became one, realizing, of course, how little I actually knew!

As anyone who has ever experienced it knows, becoming a parent is a life-altering event, one in which no one can be fully prepared. As I was reflecting on this notion, a few thoughts came to mind as things I really didn’t understand about parenting until I actually became a parent.

1. Parenting gives me a lot more choices than I ever thought possible.

I expected the daily choices — PB & J or cheese sandwiches? Long sleeve or short sleeve? Do you want to take a shower or a bath?

But parenting, of course, provides many more choices along the way. We start with the birth plan and follow with questions of breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable? Cry-it-out or co-sleeping? How will we discipline? What type of education will we choose? What friendships will we foster?  What experiences should we create or avoid?

We find out quickly that there are no formulas for being a good parent. In fact, there are very few guarantees that our choices will result in exactly what we are hoping for. The very best thing we can do is seek the Lord and abide in Him, following His lead as we parent these children He’s given us to shepherd.


2. Parenting is not efficient.

I don’t know why I ever thought parenting and efficiency went hand-in-hand, but they don’t. For some reason, I keep forgetting, expecting that a system will streamline parenting and suddenly produce perfect little children who can do no wrong.

No, parenting is not efficient. We are in it for the long haul. We will say the same things, teach the same lessons, and correct the same mistakes over and over and over again. And that’s okay! Not only is it perfectly normal, it is necessary because it is how we learn. You do, I do, and our kids certainly do, too.

Parenting is not efficient, and once I accept that, I can expect that and I’m a lot less stressed. {This might also be called patience.}


3. Parenting doesn’t always make you better.

I always heard that, like marriage, God uses parenting to sanctify us and make us more like Himself. But the truth is, parenting is an opportunity to grow more like Jesus, but the choice is ours.

How do I see my kids and their problems? When parenting isn’t efficient, how do I respond? When I have to encourage or discipline or train my children, am I frustrated or motivated? Do I see the interruptions as irritations or opportunities? Do I see parenting as a burden or a blessing?

Like the popular maxim: “Trials can make you bitter or better” — so goes parenting, and I pray that God is using this journey of parenting to make me better, to make me more like Him.


4. Parenting doesn’t require a lot of stuff.

In fact, the old adage holds true — less really is more.


5. In parenting, control is only an illusion. 

I like to be in control — I want circumstances to go as planned and things to turn out the way I hope. But just like I can’t control the weather, I can’t control people. I might think I can control my kids’ behavior, but I can not control their thoughts and I can not control their hearts.

I am responsible to lead my children — to direct and nurture and steer them in the right ways. There are times I need to restrain or limit them, and I will do all I can to train my children in the way that they should go, but the choice for how to live is theirs. So while I nurture and guide and teach my kids, more of my time needs to be spent on my knees in prayer for the hearts and lives of my kids.


6. Parenting shows me how I’m loved.

My dad always told me I’d truly understand God’s love when I had children of my own, and of course I disagreed. Until I had kids. So many of my doubts and fears and useless striving is put to rest when God reminds me, through my love for my kids, of His love for me. 


7. Parenting proves that I can survive on a lot less sleep than I thought.

I don’t like it, but it’s true!


8. Parenting promises exposure to bodily fluids.

I mean really. How did I never realize just how many bodily fluids to which I’d be covered exposed?


9. Parenting makes me more exhausted, fearful, uncertain, angry, and insecure than I ever knew I could be.

But being a parent has also made me more hopeful, content, delighted, and fulfilled than I ever would be otherwise.


10. Parenting reveals how important my example really is.

I can tell my kids something all day long, but what I live trumps the words I say. My example teaches – am I living what I want them to learn?


11. Parenting reminds me of the power of my failure.

Sometimes my kids learn more when my plans fall apart than they do when I hold everything together. In this family, we forgive, persevere, and strive to be supportive team players. In this family, we can do hard things. Sometimes those lessons are better learned through my mess-ups than my victories.


A Few Bonus Thoughts: 

  • There is no perfect family.
  • My parents deserve a lot more credit than I ever gave them
  • There is not place for comparing, complaining, or criticizing in parenting.


Question for You: What have you learned about parenting since actually becoming a parent?



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  1. “There is not place for comparing, complaining, or criticizing in parenting.” YES! Love this. Honestly, we Christians can do this more than non-Christians. We have the freedom and can choose to do things differently from other families with grace and love without making it about being “better.”

  2. After reading your post, I actually felt the urge to clap out loud and applaud you! This is one of the best posts I have ever read on parenting and it reflects honesty, grace, and a load of integrity:) As a single mom of a soon-to-be 16-year old daughter, I appreciate every reminder of what an important job God has given me and that I’m not always going to get it right. Thank you!

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